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THE FASHION OF THE WORLD.
i Cor. vii. 31.
For the fashion of this world passeth away. THE Apostle had been discussing one of the Cases of Conscience, presented to him by the Corinthian Church. He brings it, at length, to a general reflection on the subject:--This I say, Brethren, the time is short. It remaineth, that both they that have wives, be as though they had none ; and they that weep, as though they wept not ; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
I shall consider the general proposition in the text, without any particular reference to the specific case to which it may be applied, whether marriage, or politics, or commerce. It is a general truth of vast importance. The fashion of this world passeth away.
2. Draw some PRACTICAL INFERENCES from the position.
I. I have to state and illustrate the SENSE.
Grotius says on this passage, that the expression has an allusion to a theatre, where the Scheme, as the word means literally which we translate Fashion, the Scheme, the Image, the Form, the Representation, is wholly changed.
Another writer will read it, The Scene of this world passeth away. The actors in a drama sustain various characters: the scenes are continually changing: some actors stand forward as the heroes of the drama; and some lurk behind the scenes, as obscure characters; and all, these masked, in the ancient theatres : at length the curtain drops, and the scenes are over. This presents to us a very striking picture of life ;-a continually changing scene, that passeth away.
But I prefer the manner in which Archbishop Leighton considers the passage. He treats it as if it were thus written: The pageant of this world passeth away: it is a mere procession ; at best, but a pageant. As a pageant, or show, in the street, soon gets far off, and is quickly out of sight, thus is it with respect to the present world. For, says he, what is become “ of all the marriage solemnities of kings and princes of former ages, which they were so taken up with in their time? When we read of them described in history, they
are as a night-dream, or as a day-fancy, which passeth through the mind, and vanisheth !”
Who has not looked into history, and felt this strike him, as one of the first facts: “ It is all gone by! a mere pageant!" An old man has seen most of the pageants of his time pass by: he remembers the mighty actors of his youth; but they are gone! those, who made the most splendid appearance in the procession, are passed by long ago: he is ready to say, “ All is show! All is pageant ! It is but the shifting of a scene.”
And what is this more than what 'the Scripture taught us before ? In the xxxixth Psalm, we find David saying, Surely every man walketh in a vain show : surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. If he makes a show, it is á vain show. If he is disquieted, agitated exceedingly in his schemes and projects, it is in vain. If he heaps up riches, and is ready to say, “ At least there is something in this! Property is the grand thing in the world!” --he heaps up riches, and knoweth not who shall come immediately and take them away! And now, Lord, says he, what wait I for? Man walketh in such a vain show, the pageant of this world so passeth away, that I must have something greater and better, more solid, more substantial.
Thus St. John expresses it: The world passeth away, and the lust thereof. It matters not of what
importance man is found to be of in his time; nor how much he may build, or plant, or boast, or perform : he has but his stated time. The summons comes : he must go. Another actor takes his place: another steps into the procession. He also soon goes, and gives place to another: so that there scarcely seems anything on earth more evident than the truth in the text-that the pageant of this world passeth by.
II. Having thus considered the Sense of the passage, let us proceed, as I proposed, to draw some practical INFERENCES from the position.
1. If, as we have seen, the pageant of this world passes by, we may collect how LITTLE WORLDLINGS KNOW OF THAT WORLD OF WHICH THEY PROFESS TO KNOW SO MUCH!
“ I know the world,” says one of them: “nobody can tell me anything about this world. I have had long experience. I have seen into the matter. I am not to be deceived like young people, or to be imposed upon by show. I have remarked by long experience, that it is a farce which is acted on the stage of life” You know the world ?-. You know nothing of the world to purpose! For what does the Miser know of this world, who is heaping up riches, while he cannot tell who shall gather them? What does the Politician know of this world, whose politics are
founded entirely upon some measure, that is but for a moment? What does the Ambitious Man know of this world, who is building on a wave? What does the Pleasure-Taker know ofthis world, who grasps it as his portion, while it is vanishing
If I see a child building on the sand; taking his advantage, while the tide is gone down, and there is some dry sand for him to build his house on and amuse himself, thinking it will stand—I say, is a child! he does not consider that the tide is coming in, and will wash it all away!" If I see
I another child overjoyed; its little heart filled with the consideration that it is going to see a procession, like that which passed in this week*; quite satisfied to think it shall see a sight, nor looking beyond this—I say,
“ It is a child! This is natural!" It is nothing to that child whether it is a coronation or a funeral: the child makes no moral reflections on the subject. I wish this could be said only of children. I wish it could be said of no person of mature growth, That they will see such a procession, and make no moral reflection on it.
Brethren, the men of this world actually know but little of the world, because they take not the Bible for their instructor! The little that man can do for man enters not into their thoughts! A nation may unite in determining to honour an extraordinary character, and one justly lamented yet how little can man do for man!-he can dress
Alluding to the Public Funeral of Lord Nelson.